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Not Much of a Wave

Photo Source Peter Hosey | CC BY 2.0

What is the situation like now? Yesterday Americans voted in the most hotly contested election since.. 2016. It is remarkable how quickly cultural amnesia takes hold and electoral memory dissipates—I was left staring in a bookshop yesterday at a New Yorker article on Claire McCaskill’s run in deep-red Missouri, on how she avoids partisan politics and focuses on commonalities—and how this can be a model for Democrats. (She lost).

Americans voted in the hopes (of some) that this will stymie the Trump agenda, return a semblance of normalcy to politics and social life in this country, and halt the apparently inexorable rise of fascism. I suspect it will not. Enough political analysis has been written of the moment. Suffice it to say, I think the fair take is that the Democratic leadership will take exactly all the wrong lessons from their win in the House; evidence includes among many other data points the aforementioned New Yorker article, Nancy Pelosi’s expected reascension to Speaker of the House and immediate appeals to ‘bipartisanship,’ not to mention the Democrats apparently running exclusively Marine pilots as candidates.

Indeed the noose would seemingly tighten either way as the Overton window continues to shift, and if history is any guide, an election like this will not be anywhere near sufficient to stem the violently rising tide of white nationalism, despite pundits’ insistence otherwise. As Noam Chomsky pointed out in his appearance on Democracy Now! last week, the two most life-threatening issues at this most precarious time in human history—nuclear war and climate change—were virtually undiscussed in this election, if mentioned at all (and nuclear weapons were universally not, despite Trump’s stated intention to withdraw from the 1987 INF Treaty) relegated to a late-item bullet point under ‘issues’ on blue-dog Democrat campaign sites. And yet a serious consideration of these crises leads one to reasonably conclude it’s unlikely humanity will make it out of this predicament at all. 

Moreover electorally a number of symbolic contests ominously went the wrong way. Brian Kemp and Ron DeSantis beat Stacy Abrams and Andrew Gillum respectively (both African-American) in the most explicitly racist high-profile national races this cycle, aided in both cases by significant voter suppression. Ben Jealous lost his bid to be the first black governor of Maryland. Steve King won reelection. Steve Scalise (‘David Duke without the baggage’) was reelected. The explicit Nazi Arthur Jones received over 50,000 votes in Illinois’s Third Congressional District. Perhaps most notably, Republicans picked up potentially five seats in the Senate, tightening control over judicial and cabinet appointments for the indefinite future.

As Pelosi and Schumer ingratiate themselves to a fascistic administration, perhaps the most functional thing that can be said of this election is that it primarily serves as a pasted-on veneer to the backdrop of rising apocalypse behind it. Without exception mainstream analyses of it are embarrassingly simplistic. I did vote; many local elections matter; laws will continue to be passed that will have an immediate bearing on all of our lives before the possible collapse of civilization. But as Chomsky, again, says of voting: ‘it matters, but it’s not the main thing.’ The rising insanity waiting in the wings has seemingly limitless ways to re-express itself. Only a fool would suppose that an electoral victory will shut them up for long, or at all. So this is what must be confronted: perpetual war; the ongoing self-consumption of capitalism (remember, Pelosi said it: ‘we’re capitalists’); the present and rapidly worsening effects of climate change; militant white supremacy; not to mention the fundamental un-sustainability undergirding all our lifestyles. This is where the true threats lie.

Will Solomon lives in Vermont and blogs at decomposingnightmareparody.